September 26, 2023
Datsun - Importing JDM car

Last Updated on May 20, 2022 by E. Lindgren

Importing a car from Japan is not a straightforward process. It involves a lot of people, documentation, regulations, and weeks or months of waiting time. Importing a JDM car might seem like too much effort, but it doesn’t have to. If you just follow some of these basic tips, importing a vehicle from Japan is not only effortless but safe. If done right, almost everyone comes out satisfied. Below you’ll find some things that should be considered when importing a car from Japan.

A first-time importer will have many questions. What is the process like? How long will it take? Can I even trust I will receive my purchase? Do I have to make a down payment? These are excellent questions, and should indeed be taken into consideration. Let’s go through what to think about when importing your JDM vehicle.

Be Prepared to Pay a Deposit / Down Payment

When importing from overseas it is common practice to have to put down a down payment. The most ordinary method is purchasing second-hand vehicles through Japan’s online auctions. There you’ll have to win a bidding contest. Once won, you’ll have to put up a deposit, basically proving that you are serious about purchasing the vehicle. This deposit will act as a “reservation”, and thus the vehicle will be removed from the market. Once the complete purchase transaction has been completed the shipping process will begin.

Ensure the Vehicle is Legally Imported and Cleared Customs

This is especially important if your country has specific legislation for importing cars. A good example is the U.S. which only allows the importation of vehicles that are 25 years or older. This is because of different international emissions standards.

If you import a vehicle that is newer than 25 years old, it will be considered an illegal vehicle and would be seized by U.S. customs. Before importing, ensure that you’ll have all the necessary paperwork and documentation for the car you’re about to purchase. After a lengthy importing process, the last thing you’d want is for the customs to seize your vehicle.

Ensure the Vehicle is Thoroughly Inspected

Inspecting a vehicle online is not the easiest thing to do. Fortunately, if you choose from some of the more popular online auction websites, there will often be hundreds of available pictures. Allowing you to do some research. Obviously, a test drive is out of the picture. But there are workarounds if you want to ensure your vehicle is in top mechanical shape.

Before purchasing a vehicle, you can purchase an additional auction inspection. This basically means that you pay for a third party to thoroughly inspect your vehicle of choice. They will give grant you a 100% unbiased review of the exterior, interior as well as condition of the engine, drivetrain, and so on. It is almost always recommended to have a third-party inspection before importing a car from Japan.

Import Through a Third-Party

Importing directly from a private party will often result in a lengthy process, even if the car itself is a little bit cheaper, it will usually cost you more in the end than if you were to deal with a third party from the beginning. The exporting business of JDM vehicles in Japan is really big. There are hundreds of auctions providing thousands of thousands of vehicles at different price levels and quality. There will always be a car that’ll fit your needs. Often, the cars at these auctions will be reasonably priced and there should be no need for you to import through a private party.

All-in-One Solution – Choose a Great Importing/Exporting Dealership

There are a lot of things to consider when importing a car, especially if it is your first time. Unless you really want to learn the whole process from purchase to delivery, then why not let someone else deal with this?

Unfortunately, there are many dealerships that are freshly started, that perhaps have only imported a few cars, and that provide close to no customer service whatsoever. You’ll have to deal with long, unreliable delivery times. Uncertainty, and most likely a miserable experience overall. These are the dealerships you clearly want to avoid. On the positive side, there are a few proven importing/exporting dealerships providing excellent services for their customers that have been around for many years.

These experienced dealerships will not only make the importing a brief. They will provide the utmost customer service, ensure the vehicle you purchase uphold the quality advertised, guarantee competitive prices, as well as deal with all the regulation, documentation, and logistics for you. And for the price, it is honestly a great deal.

I will not go into detail about these dealerships now, as I have a completely separate post about them: read more here!


Importing a JDM vehicle from Japan is not a straightforward process. You’ll have to follow international legislation, deal with logistics, down payments, language barriers, and so on. While it is possible to import without help from an external company, it is often recommended to import through a dedicated export company. These companies will deal with everything from regulation and legislation, ensuring quality, fast delivery times, as well as competitive prices.

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